The Labour Party Youth Officer for Suffolk has warned of a shocking disparity in transport funding for students – that is putting those aged 16 and over at financial risk.
Suffolk County Council offer free travel to schools for those under 16, but with the Government now requiring all young people to stay in training or education until 18, there’s a financial cost for those in their last two years of education.
The travel costs can rise to as much as ‘hundreds of pounds’, and Kezia Bayfield, Labour’s Youth Officer, warns that “the expense can be a crippling burden”. Kezia is now urging Suffolk County Council to extend their free transport offering to all under 18s. She spoke to her local paper, the East Anglian Daily Times, in an effort to call for change.
At present, those aged 16-18 can apply for discretionary transport funding, covering £200 per term. But this simply isn’t enough for all, with Ms Bayfield admitting that she knew of cases whereby students would have to wait as late as 8pm to be collected by parents. “We need to see a change in practice,” she added, “In the local community many are having to lose out on better colleges and sixth forms and hence putting their future in jeopardy simply because they cannot afford to travel somewhere they are legally obligated to attend.”
Graham Hedger, who is standing for the Carlford division in the upcoming Suffolk County Council by-election, has backed the students’ campaign. “We are concerned that as education is now mandatory up until 18 and yet free transport for schools ends at 16, families are being asked to pay hundreds of pounds of term, which seems to be a tax on education,” he said, “We should be doing more to help young people in education; it’s an investment in their future and their future is our future and yet we are making it more difficult for them.”
Suffolk County Council’s spokesperson advised of the subsidised transport scheme for students aged 16-19 in full time education, which costs £200 per term. “Low-income families may be able to apply through their school or college for a government bursary of up to £1,200 to meet travel and other costs associated with their studies”.
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Author Lex Barber